We just returned home from a 7 day Society Island Cruise on the Paul Gauguin. After reading all the great reviews my expectations were high, and I wish that my review could be as great as some of the others, but our overall feel for for the trip and the cruise line itself was a little disappointment.
This was mine and my husband's 23rd cruise and we have been on everything from the Mega-ships to the 6 star small Luxury ships and were expecting the PG to be more inline with the smaller luxury ships, and this is where our disappointment lies. We absolutely love the smaller ships that have amazing ports of call, and when you're on board the ships amenities are a step above a mega-ship's, the service and staff top notch, and it truly is a luxury experience, the PG fell short in all these areas.
Check-in begins at 3:00 and not a minute before, check-in was smooth and quick with a glass of champagne and a moist face towel. We were shown directly to our rooms (there were 4 of us traveling) and our suitcases arrived within in 10 minutes. We had 2 balcony cabins on the 7th floor, 729 and 731, and the cabins were a bit worn, average in size, and the balconies were big enough to accommodate two chairs and a table, but no more. The bathrooms were a nice size with a full size bathtub and L'occtaine bath products. We choose the staterooms because our travel agent told us the balcony partition could be opened so we could share the outdoor space with our friends. The cabin steward told us it would be a security risk, the man who brought our bags said not possible, but a call to reception said yes and she would call and put in a request to get that done promptly for us. 3 phone calls and 3 days later, they finally opened up the partition. These cabins had a good deal of overhead noise, it is directly below the sun deck and early in the morning and late at night, they drag the chairs back and forth to clean the deck, not too terrible but wakes you up and keeps you awake. Like the cabins, the overall appearance of the ship is worn, the carpets and very water stained and the amount of products they have a very limited. For instance, pool towels, we had 2 in the cabin, the next day we had two and our friends were only given 1, then we received only one the next day and when I asked the room steward (not ours, she was not around, but 3 cabins down) she did not want to help she told me I had to call my room steward and wait until she shows up. I explained the tender to shore was leaving in 5 minutes and can you please give me one and tell my cabin steward. She had one in her hands but said she did not have any, when I asked about the one she was holding she reluctantly handed it over. One of the "little things" that added up over the trip. The staff was a mix of very professional and helpful, to friendly, to not even a smile.
The food we thought was really good. We ate one night in La Veranda and it was nice but we preferred the main dining room. The drinks were plentiful, and you can get made with a top shelf liquors at request without an additional charge. The wines at dinner were very nice as well. Room service is also very good, its very quick and has a wide selection.
Casino, very limited and small. There is one blackjack table and one poker table and a dozen slot machines. Each night there was a Blackjack tournament that was fun but everyone was at the tiny table table trying to get one of the 7 spots, one more BJ table would have been good. The "piano bar" did not have much piano music, his time slots to lay were too short. The rest of the entertainment was non-existent besides one more Polynesian show. We enjoyed the first, but over and over and the only choice made going back to the room more appealing. The upstairs bar with the band or karaoke or sitting on the back of ship listening was relaxing, when it was not raining. We would have liked to see some more entertainment options, we understand this is a small ship but we had a couple rainy days and there was nothing to do on the ship. In the evenings a little more variety, maybe a comedian or some type of show that was not strictly Polynesian. The spa was good and had a great massage, I had the $99 50-minute special advertised on Thursday.
The best part of the ship was getting to know the other passengers, its so small it's easy to make friends. We just wish the overall appearance of the ship and the staff was up to par.
We flew in 2 days early and stayed at the Intercontinental. We had the deluxe over-water bungalow, it was really nice and a great way to start the trip. The hotel was also in need of major updating, just a little run down (same owner as the ship). Nice pool areas and views. But this hotel is extremely expensive. The rooms are pricey but what gets you is the food. You don't mind if the food and service is impeccable, but for a mediocre breakfast buffet with indifferent service it's $50 per person. Lunch will run about $100 a couple and $200-$300 for dinner (dinner buffet is $130 pp), then add-in drinks and wine.... We were told how good the "trailers" were downtown, so the 4 of us and 3 other guys we met decided to go there on Friday night. As soon as we got out of the cab we all looked at each other and couldn't wait to get back to the hotel. Would not recommend going unless you like state fair food, did not seem very clean.
I wish this was day 2 on the stop and the 1st day we did Taha'a. It was a Sunday when we docked and absolutely everything is closed so make sure you book an excursion. The travel concierge on the ship said the snorkeling was not very good, but when we arrived the water was beautiful and the people who did the Coral Garden Drift Snorkeling said it was great. I love the water and should have booked. We did the Faaroa River and Island Exploration, it was a good excursion through the river and jungle on the way back and the info and guides were really great. Not the prettiest island we visited.
Taha'a (Motu Mahana)
We had so much fun, a beautiful spot to snorkel, kayak, walk way out in the water, its very shallow a long ways out and an amazing color. Enjoy the big coconut drinks!
Day 1: We did the Aqua Bike booked through the cruise ship. It is an underwater scooter that you drive and follow a dive master. It was incredible! Patrick the dive-master was great and pointed a lot out to us, a great way to experience 12-15 feet underwater without diving and a regulator. Would recommend it! You can also book directly with him: aquabikeadventure.com. We then went to the private Motu that PG has. We had so much fun at motu the day before we were excited to go to this one. The water was gorgeous, but the beach has no bathrooms, no chairs, and sand fleas. Drinks were some beer and water. We were ready to leave when the tender returned an hour later.
Day 2: The absolute best excursion and the highlight of our trip. We booked outside the PG and directly from Patrick's website. Another couple did the same excursion the 1st day in Bora Bora and it was the highlight of their trip, they referred us. We booked with www.maohinui.net, and did the ¾ day Excursion, with Polynesian lunch on a private island. The way his pricing works the more people booked the less expensive it gets. We booked last minute so it was only the 4 of us since he added an extra boat for us. The boat only accommodates 12 so it would not have been crowded, but was so special and luxuries just being the 4 of us. We swam with the black tip reef sharks, fed the stings rays, snorkeled the coral garden and the had a private lunch of grilled lobster, tuna, and chicken served to us at a table in the water with champagne. Our guide was Moa and he was the best. Just Amazing!!
Day 1: It was a little rainy so we rented a car and drove around the island. Stopped for a local lunch and then the Intercontinental, went back to the ship early.
Day 2) Started the day with the Waverunner Adventure, went around part of the island a stopped to feed the rays. Rainy afternoon.
We got a day-rate room, $200 usd and included airport transfers. We first had room 127, it was mildewy, old, dusty, and after we waited and waited for a/c to come on we were informed it was broken in that room, then why was that room given out? Another strike against the InterCon. We then moved to room 191 and it was nice and clean. We had dinner at Lotus before our flight home. It was a great way to end the trip, food and atmosphere was great.